Trump's EPA Guy Won't Get To Despoil Virginia After State Senate Says F*******ck No
state commonwealth Senate voted yesterday to reject the nomination of former Trump EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to the state's top environmental job, because "former Trump EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, are you shitting me? Are you seriously shitting me here?" At least I assume that's what all the Democrats in the Senate were thinking before Wheeler's bid to become the state's commonwealth's secretary of natural resources failed on a 21 to 19 party-line vote.
Now new Gov. Glenn Youngkin will need to find another nominee who manages to be just as awful as Wheeler, but perhaps isn't a literal former coal lobbyist who worked to dismantle a ton of important environmental protections like the Obama administration's vehicle fuel-efficiency standards or the Clean Power Plan, which would have required steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from electric generation stations. Our grandchildren can all thank Andrew Wheeler for playing a central role in delaying US action on climate, as they're dealing with the damage from a hotter climate and rising seas.
Sadly, there's no shortage of current and former fossil fuel industry types likely to rise to the challenge. When Youngkin announced Wheeler's nomination in January, he made clear one of his goals as governor was to keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, to ensure that Virginia has a "diverse energy portfolio" that would keep the state prosperous. Youngkin also said the nominee would be responsible for developing a "comprehensive plan to tackle rising sea levels," although like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, he only mentions that sea levels are rising, while the reasons are best not spoken of in polite company.
Unlike the US Senate, the Virginia Senate generally accedes to governors' cabinet picks, so this is the first nominee in 16 years to have their nomination turned down. The Richmond Times-Dispatch notes that the last time it happened, in 2006, Senate Republicans blocked Gov. Tim Kaine's pick for "secretary of the commonwealth," Daniel LeBlanc, because he'd been the head of the state AFL-CIO and opposed Virginia's "right to work" law. So that evens out: Wheeler's out because he loves pollution too much, and LeBlanc was unacceptable because he thought workers deserved the protections of a union.
Democrats were clear that Wheeler's environmental record wasn't acceptable. Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria said he was worried that Wheeler would “do exactly what he did at the federal level — systematically deconstruct regulations that protect our environment.”
In a statement, Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said that Wheeler was "extraordinarily qualified" for the job and that he had "admirably served for decades in the highest levels of government," which is one way to characterize the time he spent dismantling environmental protections for the sake of industrial profits. Also too, Porter said Wheeler would actually continue to stay in the job as "Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources" until the current legislative session is adjourned, because Virginia's Constitution is weird that way.
Senate Republicans cried great big tears about how unfair Democrats were being in not letting Wheeler serve; Sen. Richard Stuart called Wheeler "an incredibly accomplished man" whose credentials are "impeccable," although he didn't specify whether he meant Wheeler's credentials as a non-regulator or his credentials as a coal lobbyist. Stuart also noted a couple of cherry-picked examples of good EPA rules under Wheeler, like the first EPA rule requiring that schools test for lead, as if that were somehow typical of Wheeler's EPA tenure.
Then Stuart decried the Democratic opposition as mere partisanship for no good reason:
“I get the politics,” Stuart said. “I understand that some of these environmental groups out there don’t like him because of who he worked for and that’s just a real shame.”
That didn't go over so well with Sen. Chap Petersen, who chairs the Senate committee that oversaw Wheeler's confirmation hearings. He noted that Wheeler may have been "the smartest person in the room," but added that wasn't enough to qualify him for a job in protecting the environment.
Petersen said the job of the state’s secretary of natural resources is “not commerce, it’s not thinking of ways to get around environmental rules — it’s actually protecting our lands and waters.”
He said Wheeler was part of an administration that “defunded the Chesapeake Bay, dismantled the Clean Power Plan,” an Obama administration effort to combat climate change, weakened coal ash rules and “effectively silenced scientists.”
On the whole, Petersen said that Wheeler misapplied his smarts, because the secretary of natural resources' job requires "somebody who is focused on preserving natural resources, not just finding ways to get around those rules.”
Thank you, Sen. Petersen, for explaining why no one who worked in any Trump agency should be put in a position of trust, ever.
We suppose it's just possible that Youngkin could still pick Trump's first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, although that seems unlikely. As Pruitt's deputy at EPA, Wheeler did most of the dirty energy work anyway, while Pruitt drove around Washington in a motorcade looking to acquire fancy hand lotion, some Trump hotel jizz mattresses, and perhaps a high-paid job for his wife. That should exclude Pruitt from the running, unless Youngkin is looking for a highly qualified personal shopper.
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